FAQs: PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE (PUA)

Updated on January 4, 2021

NOTE: On December 26, President Trump signed an emergency coronavirus relief act into law that allows an individual to receive unemployment benefits (traditional or PUA) for up to 50 weeks, through March 13, 2021, and provides an additional $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits for individuals receiving PUA for 11 weeks, beginning December 27, 2020, and ending March 13, 2021. More information below.

See additional documents, including our step-by-step guide on certification, on the COVID Legal Documents page on car.org.

The CARES Act includes a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program expanding unemployment benefits eligibility to business owners, self-employed workers, and independent contractors, including most REALTORS®. This means if you’re unable to work as a direct result of the pandemic and you aren’t eligible for ordinary unemployment insurance benefits, you may be entitled to PUA benefits.

There are broad categories of eligibility such that most agents and brokers whose work is adversely impacted by COVID-19 may be eligible for some benefits. However, you still must meet the criteria. C.A.R. as been working diligently to get you as much information as we can, however, there are still a number of questions for which we don’t have answers yet. This page continues to be updated regularly as soon as soon as additional information become available.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
 

 

 

Eligibility Questions

Is PUA available to agents and brokers?

Yes, if you meet the criteria.

 

What are the criteria you must meet to qualify for PUA?

  • You must not be traditionally eligible for unemployment compensation in California or any other state

  • You must have exhausted any other unemployment benefits, if applicable

  • You can’t be receiving paid sick leave, such as State Disability Insurance, or any other paid leave benefits, such as Paid Family Leave benefits

  • You must not have the ability to work remotely with pay

  • You must be a U.S. citizen or is legally permitted to work in the U.S. at the time services were performed and for any week of PUA benefits claimed

  • Most importantly, you must be unable to work because of COVID-19

 

What does it mean to be unable to work because of COVID-19?

You must meet one of the following criteria:
 

  • You’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a medical diagnosis

  • You can’t reach your place of work as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency

  • A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19

  • You’re providing care for a family member or a member of your household who has been diagnosed with COVID–19

  • You’re unable to work because a health care provider advised you to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19

  • You have to quit your job as a direct result of COVID–19

  • You were scheduled to start a job that is now unavailable as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency

  • Your place of employment is closed as a direct result of the COVID–19 public health emergency

  • A child or other person in the household for whom you have primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 and the school or facility care is required for you to work

  • You’ve become the head of household or breadwinner because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19

  • If you work as an independent contractor with reportable income, you may also qualify for PUA benefits if you are unemployed, partially employed, or unable or unavailable to work because the COVID-19 public health emergency has severely limited your ability to continue performing your customary work activities, and has thereby forced you to stop working

  • The Secretary of Labor has discretion to establish additional criteria, meaning, these listed reasons may be further limited or possibly expanded

 

I’m not working due to COVID-19, am I eligible for regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits, PUA benefits, or both?
 

If you had any employee wages (as reported by an employer on a W2) for the past 18 months, you must apply for regular UI benefits. For example, if you worked a temporary or part-time W-2 job in the last 18 months, or if you have your own corporation that pays you any salary reported on a W-2, you must apply for regular UI benefits.

If the amount of wages you earned isn’t enough to qualify you for a regular UI claim, then you may qualify for PUA benefits if you have a COVID-19 reason for being unemployed.

You can’t be eligible for both regular UI benefits and PUA benefits.  If you’re eligible for regular UI benefits, you’re not eligible for PUA benefits.

As of December 27, 2020, if you are eligible for traditional unemployment benefits (e.g., because you had W-2 income in the past 18 months) but also had self-employment income, you may be eligible for a $100 supplemental payment on top of your unemployment payment.  This is called a Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation or MEUC and is discussed more below.

 

Can I choose between my W-2 work and my independent contractor work if my benefits would be higher as an independent contractor?
 

No. The federal CARES Act, which created the PUA program, requires that an individual may only receive PUA benefits if they aren’t eligible for regular or extended UI benefits. Even if the vast bulk of your income is from being a self-employed REALTOR® and you picked up occasional W-2 work on the side in the past 18 months, if your W-2 income is sufficient to qualify you for regular UI benefits, you are disqualified from receiving PUA benefits.

If my W-2 income was a very small part of my overall income, isn’t it unfair that I’m unable to claim PUA using my 1099 income?
 

Yes, we understand that this may be incredibly unfair. Unfortunately, this is what federal law requires for PUA. It might be helpful to keep in mind that, before the PUA program, independent contractors and self-employed persons were entirely ineligible for unemployment benefits. The Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation supplement (discussed further below) is intended to help with this issue.

 

If I’m already receiving regular unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, can I switch over to PUA benefits if I want to identify myself as an independent contractor or self-employed?
 

No. If you’re receiving regular UI benefits, you can’t qualify for PUA benefits. If you have enough employee earnings (e.g., W-2 wages) reported to the EDD by an employer over the last 18 months, you would be eligible for regular UI and under federal law, you would not be eligible for PUA benefits.

 

Could I be eligible for PUA benefits if I don’t have sufficient work history?
 

You may. To qualify for PUA based on insufficient work history, you must be unable or unavailable to work due to one of the COVID-19 related reasons, and have an attachment to the workforce. For example, if you’re a new REALTOR® who didn’t close any escrows in 2019, but closed an escrow in 2020, you may still be eligible for PUA benefits, provided that you aren’t eligible for regular UI benefits.

 

Is there a threshold minimum income I’m required to have had in calendar year 2019 to be eligible for a PUA claim?  

No. Based on federal regulations, there is no minimum monetary requirement for an individual to be eligible for PUA.  However, your 2019 calendar year net income will be considered when calculating your weekly PUA benefits (e.g. to determine if you are eligible to receive more than the $167 minimum weekly benefit amount). 

Do I have to be completely unemployed to qualify for PUA benefits?

No. You may receive PUA benefits based on being partially unemployed. However, PUA benefits may be reduced or eliminated for those benefit weeks for which partial earnings are reported.  Keep in mind however, if you’re eligible to receive at least one dollar ($1) in base benefits for your claimed week, you’ll still be eligible to receive any additional federal supplement for that claim week. That additional supplement will be $300 per week for weeks from December 27, 2020, through March 13, 2021. The Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation supplement would also be available to eligible UI claimants for weeks from December 27, 2020, through March 13, 2021, if you receive at least $1 in base-benefits for a week.

 

I have W-2 income — through a side job or my own entity. Should I quit my job or ‘fire myself’ to become eligible for PUA or UI benefits?

No. Someone who quits a job is generally not eligible for unemployment benefits, whether under the traditional UI system or the new PUA program. There may be exceptions under certain circumstances. For example, if you quit because you either contract COVID-19 or are told by a medical professional to self-isolate, or because you need to be the primary caregiver for a child who cannot attend school or childcare, etc., the EDD is likely to treat this as an exception to the rule that people who quit aren’t eligible for unemployment. However, this would be for the EDD to determine. Similarly, if you pay yourself a salary or wage from your own corporation, we don’t think you could become eligible for PUA benefits if you ‘fire yourself’ from your own entity. The EDD has not provided guidance for such a scenario, but it seems to violate the rule against quitting because it is in your control.

 

Can I apply for both PUA benefits if I borrowed through a SBA loan? 

While you could apply for PUA benefits even if you applied for either an EIDL or a PPP loan, there is no guidance regarding how receipt of one form of assistance will affect your eligibility for the other, if at all, or how it might affect forgiveness of a PPP loan.  We do not believe that applying for or receiving an EIDL needs to be reported on your PUA certification because it is a loan that must be repaid.  If you received a PPP loan, which is used to replace income or pay employees, and which can be forgiven, it is less clear. Without authoritative guidance from an appropriate state or federal agency, we cannot provide guidance to you on the interplay between a PUA claim and a PPP loan. You should assess each program’s qualifications when deciding on available options. We will provide additional information and guidance if the EDD or federal Department of Labor make any available.

 

Will my benefits be reduced if I report PPP loan proceeds?

Yes, you should expect that reporting PPP loan proceeds will reduce benefits for those weeks.

 

What happens if I don’t report PPP loan proceeds and they are eventually determined to be reportable income?

The EDD may seek to recover the benefit amounts paid for those weeks plus penalties.

 

What if I already certified for weeks without reporting PPP loan proceeds?

You can report through Ask EDD at https://askedd.edd.ca.gov/ by selecting “Unemployment Insurance Benefits” from the category drop down, selecting “Payments” from the sub-category dropdown, selecting “EDD Paid Me and I returned to Work, Need to Report Wages”, clicking continue, completing the contact information on the next page, completing the Additional Information box at the bottom pursuant to the instructions, and submitting.  The EDD may contact you on the next steps or may withhold amounts from subsequent payments (we don’t know which).

Can you get PUA if you’re receiving social security benefits?

Yes. In California receipt of social security benefits are not reportable to the EDD as wages and do not reduce any unemployment benefits received.

 

Can you get PUA if you receive a pension?

Unfortunately, this is a fairly complicated question that we can’t answer. The question really is whether the amount received as a pension will reduce your eligibility for PUA. However, the EDD has a helpful document, including a flowchart, regarding the effect of pension or retirement pay on unemployment benefits. This guidance will likely apply to PUA benefits as well, though we can’t be sure.

 

When will the PUA program expire?


The first round for applications for the relief grant program opens on December 30, 2020 at 8:00am and closes on January 13, 2021 at 11:59pm. Approval notifications will begin on January 15, 2021. There will be a second round for application submissions and reviews, although the dates for that round have not yet been announced. Applicants who submit their application and submit all documentation in the first round should not reapply, since one complete application qualifies an applicant to be considered for both rounds.

 

Application Questions

 

How do I file a claim for PUA benefits?

In California, claim filing and administration of PUA benefits is through the California Employment Development Department (“EDD”). The fastest way to file a PUA claim is through UI Online at https://edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/UI_Online.htm. just as you would for regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits.  The EDD began accepting PUA applications on April 28, 2020.

Through UI Online, you can create an online account, provide the required information, and certify for benefits. Once you create your UI Online account, you can log-in to file your claim, certify for continued benefits, verify income and update your information. Information about UI Online can be found at https://edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/UI_Online.htm. You can also apply for PUA benefits by phone, mail, or fax.  

For C.A.R.’s step-by-step instructions on how to file a PUA claim through UI Online, visit  https://car.org/puainstructions

 

Is the application process different for regular UI applicants and PUA applicants?

No. UI Online is the EDD’s application portal for both regular UI and PUA claims.  Both UI applicants and PUA applicants use the same form. All applicants will be asked the same basic questions, including about employment history and earnings information, along with some new questions needed to determine PUA eligibility.  Based on your responses as well as wage information reported to the EDD, the EDD will determine if your claim is processed as a regular UI claim or a PUA claim.   

 

If I have a small amount of W-2 income and a large amount of income from self-employment, can I not declare the W-2 wages on my application and just rely on self-employment to get PUA?

No. If the EDD has wages reported from an employer over the last 18 months that would qualify you for a regular UI claim, then the EDD will proceed with a regular UI claim for you. This means that if you worked a temporary or part-time W-2 job in the last 18 months, or if you have your own corporation that pays you any salary reported on a W-2, you must declare your wages.  Income derived from your work as an independent contractor or 1099 income will not be used to calculate your benefits.

If you are eligible for traditional UI benefits (because you had W-2 income) but you also have at least $5,000 in self-employment income in the most recent taxable year prior to applying for benefits (usually 2019, assuming you applied for benefits in 2020), then you may also receive Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation for each week you are eligible for benefits from December 27, 2020 through March 13, 2021.  The Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation is a $100 per week supplemental payment in addition to your base UI benefit and your $300 per week federal supplement for those weeks.

 

Do I need to provide documentation with my PUA application to prove my income?

When you first file your PUA claim, you do not need to submit any documentation. You will self-certify your total income for the 2019 calendar year on the application, and this will be used to pay the minimum benefit amount of $167 per week plus any federal supplement for which you are eligible. If the income information you provide indicates that you’re entitled to benefits more than the $167 minimum, you will be required to substantiate that income if requested by the EDD. In general, you may submit tax returns, 1099 forms, W-2s, pay stubs or other documents that show your income.

Under CARES Act II, anyone who receives UI or PUA benefits after December 27, 2020 will need to document their income. States are required to adopt a process to verify income under the new law, but the EDD has not yet created such a process. (It is expected to do so in January 2021.) Once EDD adopts the process, claimants who filed before January 31, 2021 (most claimants) will have 90 days to submit documents, while those who first file for benefits on or after February 1, 2021 will have 21 days to submit required documents. The EDD will notify you if you have to provide documentation and will tell you the documents you need to submit. We will update this FAQ as information becomes available. 

Will I need to report my 2019 income or my 2020 income?

It depends on when you first apply for benefits. If you applied in 2020, your benefits will be based on your 2019 net income. If you apply in 2021, we believe your benefits will be based on your 2020 net income, but the EDD has not described how they will measure or document this income prior to your filing of your 2020 tax return. We will update this answer as information becomes available.

 

When I report my income on the PUA application, is it gross or net?

You will need to provide your net income.

 

What should I expect upon submitting my application on UI Online?

You should expect to receive the confirmation of your application within about two weeks via mail. You may also receive an email confirming that you were automatically registered in UI Online, through which you may access information about your claim and certify for continued benefits online.  If you’re not automatically registered in UI online, you will receive a notice in the mail with your EDD Customer Account Number. You can use the Customer Account Number to finish registering for UI Online access. 

 

I never received an EDD Customer Account Number, what should I do?

Unfortunately, you are not alone. Many members have reported never receiving any notice in the mail with their EDD Customer Account Number. You should either call the EDD at 833-978-2511 or submit a request via Ask EDD at https://askedd.edd.ca.gov/ by selecting “Unemployment Benefits” from the category drop-down, selecting UI Online from the sub-category drop-down, selecting “EDD Customer Account Number” from the topic drop down, clicking continue, completing the contact information on the next page, completing the “Additional Information” box at the bottom pursuant to the instructions, and submitting. Note that if you submit a request via Ask EDD, there may be a delay of days or weeks for a response.

 

What if the EDD needs more information from me to complete my claim?

The EDD may call you or mail you a notice. If you get a phone call from the EDD, your caller ID may show “St of CA EDD” or the UI call center numbers 1-833-978-2511 or 1-800-300-5616.

 

What should I do if I made a mistake on my application?

If you realize after submitting your application that you made a mistake on your application, you have two choices. The best choice is to promptly try to call one of EDD’s telephone contact lines to try to correct the issue. If you think the mistake is important, such as regarding your income or a factor that will affect your eligibility, you should try to call EDD as soon as possible to correct the issue. If you think the issue is not important (e.g., not saying that you are part of a non-union trade association), you can wait several weeks to get a letter from EDD, then try to contact them by phone to correct the information. C.A.R. cannot advise you on whether an issue is important. 

 

I submitted my application through UI Online, but I never received an email from the EDD confirming receipt of my application. What should I do?

Many members have received emails from the EDD to their personal email accounts advising them that they have an email in their UI Online Inbox.  However, many others have said they did not receive any email, even after checking their junk email folder.  Regardless of whether you received an email from EDD or not, after two business days or so, you should be able to log in to your EDD account with your email address and password to check the status of your claim.    

 

It’s been over two days that since submitted my application and I still can’t log in to UI Online.  What should I do?

Contact the EDD’s technical support line at 1-833-978-2511 (open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (PST), 7 days per week. Please note that REALTORS® have reported extreme difficulty reaching the EDD due to high call volumes, even with these extended hours.  Unfortunately, this is beyond our control.  Frustrating as it may be, we simply suggest you be persistent and perhaps try calling during different hours of the day and on different days.

 

 

Certification Questions

 

How are the criteria for PUA and regular UI eligibility checked?

Through certification. The EDD’s approval of your claim for benefits (PUA or regular UI) will be based on the information and self-certifications you submit during the application process.

Under CARES Act II, states must also adopt a return-to-work reporting process through which potential employers can report claimants that refuse to return to work or refuse suitable offers of employment. Such claimants may lose eligibility unless the refusal is related to the pandemic. However, it is not clear how this requirement will be applied to independent contractors receiving PUA benefits. We will update this question as information becomes available.

 

What is certification and how often do you need to certify?

Certification is the required process of answering basic questions every two weeks that tells the EDD you’re still unemployed and otherwise eligible to continue receiving biweekly benefit payments, including that you continue to be unable to work due to COVID. You’ll be required to answer questions about your availability and ability to work, and to report earnings.  All information you provide should be accurate, as the EDD may audit any relevant information.

 

What is the fastest way to certify?

The fastest way to certify is on UI Online. You can also do this by phone by calling 1-866-333-4606, or by mailing the paper form.  

 

Are the certification questions for PUA and regular UI the same?

No. The questions asked of PUA claimants are slightly different. The EDD provides some guidance for UI certification at https://edd.ca.gov/unemployment/Understanding_the_Continued_Claim_Certification_Questions.htm. The EDD hasn’t provided any guidance regarding the PUA specific questions.

 

Where can I get some guidance on certification for PUA benefits?

You may consider using C.A.R.’s guide for the certification process at  https://www.car.org/puacertification, but please answer all questions specific to your situation.

Do I continue certifying for any weeks that become available while my claim shows “pending”?

 

Yes. Even though your claim shows “pending,” continue to certify for any weeks that become available to certify to ensure that you receive timely payment if and when you’re determined eligible. 

What happens if I forget to certify?

To continue receiving PUA/UI benefits, recipients must certify for benefits every two weeks.  If you forget to certify for benefits, even for only a week, your claim will be closed and you will need to reopen your claim to request benefit payments. This can be a frustrating process, so please check your UI Online home page Notifications section at least every two weeks so you will see important new information such as messages in your inbox or required certifications.

 

Do I need to look for work to continue being eligible for receiving PUA benefits?

No, EDD has said that, due to COVID-19, you don’t have to be looking for work and, if you meet all other eligibility requirements, you will still receive PUA benefits. However, CARES Act II requires states to create a system for reporting claimants who refuse to return to work or refuse available employment. It is not clear how this will be applied for independent contractors such as REALTORS®. We will update this question when guidance becomes available.

 

Do I need to upload my resume in CalJOBS to continue being eligible for PUA benefits?

Not at this time. The EDD understands that it’s a difficult time to look for a job right now, so unless the EDD’s instructions change, at this time, you are not required to upload your resume to CalJOBS during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

As a REALTOR®, I’m still marketing, networking, trying to get deals, reviewing MLS listings, or performing other activities common to my profession, yet I haven’t been able to close any deals due to COVID-19.  Are my activities considered work for purposes of certification and EDD’s determination of my continued eligibility for PUA benefits?

While it’s not clear, we think this constitutes “looking for work,” but not work that would disqualify you from eligibility for UI or PUA benefits.  Please note that the EDD hasn’t provided clear guidance on what constitutes “work” for independent contractors, including most REALTORS® so we cannot give you a clear answer on how to answer these questions. Keep in mind though that eligibility is determined on a case by case basis, and if you’re partially unemployed due to a COVID-19 reason, you may still be eligible for PUA benefits, as reduced by partial employment.

As a REALTOR®, although business may be slower than usual, I’ve resumed nearly all activities common to my profession, closed a deal and am in the process of closing another one, and am no longer restricted from working due to any of the COVID-19 reasons. Does this constitute “work” for purposes of certification and EDD’s determination of my continued eligibility for PUA benefits?

Yes, we believe this would constitute “work” as you do not appear to be “unable to work due to COVID-19,” the original criteria. However, you may still be eligible if you’re “partially unemployed.” We don’t know how the EDD defines “partial unemployment” for independent contractors. If things change and you are unable to work again, close deals, etc. due to COVID-19, you may be eligible to reopen your claim.  If you need to reopen your claim, the fastest way is by logging into UI Online, then going to the “Notifications” section from the home page. You can also contact EDD by phone, or you can mail or fax the paper application.

I received a commission check.  Am I required to inform the EDD?

Yes. You can do so by reporting the income on your weekly certification, or you can access “Ask EDD” by visiting https://askedd.edd.ca.gov/ and select “Unemployment Insurance Benefits”, then “Payments”, and then “EDD Paid Me and I Returned to Work, Need to Report Wages”. 

I own rental property.  Am I required to report rental income as earned wages?

It depends. Passive income, such as rental income, doesn’t need to be included in reporting income to the EDD, but income from self-employment does. So, if you own rental property and you didn’t earn a living from managing it, it’s passive income that isn’t required to be reported. If, however, you are managing the rental property as a form of employment, your rental income should be reported.

 

If I’m a REALTOR® certifying for PUA benefits, when do I report earnings?

You should report earnings during the week you received your commission check. 

 

Can the EDD audit me?

Yes. Keep in mind that you must acknowledge, under penalty of perjury, that your answers are true and correct for each certification period.

 

What are the penalties if I am not truthful with my responses?

If you’re not truthful and you receive benefits you’re not eligible for, benefit  payments you receive may be considered a benefit overpayment and you will have to repay the benefit as soon as possible to avoid collection and possible legal action. If the EDD finds that you intentionally gave false information or withheld information and, as a result, received benefits that you should not have received, the overpayment is considered obtained by fraud. Withholding or giving false information to obtain benefits is a serious offense that can result in penalties and criminal prosecution. You must repay fraudulent overpayments with penalties.

What happens if I receive PUA benefits I was not eligible for, but the overpayment wasn’t my fault?

If the overpayment was not your fault, the EDD will not consider it to be fraud. You will receive a notice telling you if the overpayment must be repaid. If you don’t repay your overpayment quickly, the EDD can deduct the money from your future UI or State Disability Insurance benefits. The EDD can also reduce or withhold your federal and state income tax refunds; reduce or withhold your state lottery winnings; reduce or withhold other money the State owes you; file a claim against you in court; charge you court costs and interest; or record a lien on your property.

While we expect EDD will generally require you to repay benefits you weren’t eligible to receive even if the overpayment wasn’t your fault, CARES Act II allows states to waive the repayment requirement in such cases if requiring repayment would be contrary to equity and good conscience. There is no guidance available yet on how this may be interpreted.

Was there a waiver of the certification requirement in early- to mid-2020?


Yes. While PUA and regular UI recipients are normally required to certify for benefits every 2 weeks, the certification requirement was temporarily waived early in the pandemic for certain weeks through May 9, 2020 to expedite the payment process. Benefit recipients were later required to submit retroactive certifications to confirm they were eligible during the waived certification period. 

 

Am I required to repay the EDD for overpayments if I wasn’t eligible for benefits during the waived certification period?

Yes, you may receive a Notice of Overpayment with the amount you will be required to repay the EDD. Under CARES Act II, states may waive the repayment requirement if the overpayment was due to no fault of the claimant and repayment would be contrary to equity and good conscience.

 

Will I be penalized if the EDD determines that I wasn’t eligible for benefits during the waived certification period?

No, however, you may receive a Notice of Overpayment and you may have to repay the EDD for overpaid benefits unless you are granted an overpayment waiver.

 

Do I have the right to appeal a Notice of Overpayment?

Yes, your Notice of Overpayment should explain why you were overpaid and should provide you with information about your appeal rights and procedures.

 

I received a Notice of Overpayment, but I can’t afford to repay the EDD for overpaid benefits. Can I apply for a waiver?

Yes, to be considered for an overpayment waiver, you must complete a Personal Financial Statement which should have been mailed to you along with the Notice of Overpayment. Under CARES Act II, states may waive the repayment requirement if the overpayment was due to no fault of the claimant and repayment would be contrary to equity and good conscience.

 

How will the EDD determine whether an overpayment waiver should be granted?

The information you provide on the Personal Financial Statement will be used by the EDD to determine whether an overpayment waiver can be granted. The EDD will determine whether the recovery of an overpayment would cause extraordinary hardship by evaluating your average monthly family income for the last six months. Under CARES Act II, states may waive the repayment requirement if the overpayment was due to no fault of the claimant and repayment would be contrary to equity and good conscience.  There is no further guidance on how this provision will be interpreted.

 

Payment Questions

 

If I’m eligible for PUA benefits, how much will I get?

The amount of PUA benefits are based on your prior income, with a minimum base benefit of $167 per week to a maximum base benefit of $450 per week. Additionally, the CARES Act II provides that if you are eligible to receive PUA benefits for any weeks from December 27, 2020 through March 13, 2021, you will also receive an additional $300 per week in “Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation” or “FPUC” with each week’s base benefit.

If I’m eligible for UI benefits instead, how much will I get?

Depending on prior income, you can receive regular UI benefits that range from $40-$450 per week. You can use the unemployment insurance calculator at https://edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/UI-Calculator.htm to help estimate your potential weekly base UI benefit amount. The CARES Act II also provides an additional $300 per week benefit for weeks from December 27, 2020 through March 13, 2021.

In addition, if you receive traditional UI benefits (not PUA) during any week from December 27, 2020 through March 13, 2021 and had net self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019, you should also receive an additional $100 per week in Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (“MEUC”). Since traditional unemployment benefits disregard self-employment income, this additional benefit is intended to make up for some of the lost self-employment income. There is no guidance yet about how mixed earners will need to request the additional benefit or what documentation may be required. We will provide additional information as it becomes available.

Are PUA benefits retroactive?

Yes, PUA benefits are retroactive, but the retroactivity period depends on whether you filed before or after December 27, 2020, when CARES Act II became law.  If you filed on or before December 26, 2020, your claim could be retroactive to as early as the week starting February 2, 2020, depending on your last day of work due to COVID-19.

However, CARES Act II provides that if you file your first claim for PUA benefits on or after the date that law was enacted (December 27, 2020), your claim can only be retroactive to December 7, 2020, even if you would have been eligible for benefits before that date.

Do I need to apply separately for the additional $300 per week FPUC (temporary additional benefit)?

No. Regardless of whether you submit a claim for regular UI benefits or a claim for PUA benefits, the $300 per week benefit will be automatically processed by the EDD for eligible weeks from December 27, 2020 through March 13, 2021. You don’t need to do anything to receive this extra funding. The EDD will automatically add the $300 to each week of current benefits that are paid every two weeks, as long you are eligible for at least $1 in a regular UI or PUA benefit each week.

I receive traditional UI benefits but also had self-employment income in 2019 or 2020.  Do I need to apply separately for the $100 per week Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (“MEUC”) benefit?

We don’t know yet. Since your base UI benefit is based on W-2 income, it’s possible that EDD is not aware you had self-employment income as well. In that case, you may need to apply for the MEUC and provide documentation of your self-employment and income in order to receive this additional benefit. We will provide additional information as it becomes available.

How long will PUA benefits be provided?

Base PUA benefits may be provided up to 57 weeks starting with weeks of unemployment beginning February 2, 2020, through April 10, 2021, depending on when you became directly impacted by the pandemic. The PUA program initially launched with up to 39 weeks of benefits, but CARES Act II extended this to 57 weeks for those who continue to qualify for PUA benefits. Additionally, note that if you are not already receiving benefits as of March 13, 2021, you will not be able to apply for benefits from that date through April 10, 2021.

What makes me eligible for PUA benefits higher than the $167 weekly minimum?

 

If your 2019 net income was more than $17,368, you are eligible for PUA benefits higher than the $167 weekly minimum.

 

When will my $167 weekly minimum PUA benefits increase and is this increase retroactive?

 

To make benefits available as quickly as possible, the EDD initially issued payments in phases and the base PUA benefits issued were only $167 per week.  The EDD is now recalculating benefit payments based on your 2019 income.  If you earned more than $17,368 last year, the EDD will automatically increase your weekly benefit payments. Any increase in weekly benefit amounts calculated will be paid retroactively by the EDD to the start your PUA claim. 

 

How will I know if I’m eligible for my $167 weekly minimum PUA benefits to increase?

 

If you qualify, you will receive a notice in the mail 5-7 days after the EDD adjusts your benefit amount. Your adjustment payments will be issued automatically.

 

What qualifies me for the maximum $450 weekly PUA benefit?

To qualify for the maximum $450 weekly PUA benefit, your net self-employment income for 2019 needs to be more than $46,696.

 

Will any income I receive affect the amount of my PUA benefits?

Yes. PUA benefits may be reduced or eliminated for those benefit weeks for which income is reported. However, eligibility for benefit payments is determined weekly, so earning income in one week should only affect that week and you should remain eligible for benefits for other weeks you are unable to work due to COVID-19.

 

In what form of payment will PUA benefits be issued?

The EDD will issue PUA benefit payments using the EDD Debit Card (not subject to a credit check or monitoring by the EDD).

 

How soon should you expect to receive PUA benefits?

If approved and after certifying, Bank of America will mail you your EDD Debit Card (allow 5 business days for delivery) which, upon activation, will provide you with immediate access to your first payment. If, however, you already have an existing EDD debit card (and there are no issues that require a further review of eligibility), you may be able to receive your first PUA payment within approximately two days if approved and after certifying. 

 

I’ve been approved for either PUA or regular UI benefits, why haven’t I received my EDD Debit Card yet?

Due to the high volume of claims being processed, it may take a few extra days to receive your EDD Debit Card in the mail. To check the mailing status of your EDD Debit Card, you can contact Bank of America at 1-866-692-9374. Keep in mind that Bank of America representatives cannot answer questions about your claim or pending payments.

 

How can I use funds from the EDD Debit Card?

You will be able to use the debit card as a Visa card, transfer funds to the financial institution of your choice at no charge (automatically or on a one-time basis), withdraw cash at many ATMs at no additional cost, and more. Information on transfers and other EDD Visa Debit Card benefits is available at  https://www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/The_EDD_Debit_Card.htm  Additionally, Bank of America has created a website specifically for recipients of EDD debit cards:  https://prepaid.bankofamerica.com/EDDCard/Home/Index.

 

My EDD Debit Card been frozen. Why?

Probably because the EDD suspects potential fraud related to your claim and needs to verify your identity before further payments can be issued.  You should login to your UI Online account and upload the needed identity documents through the Document Upload feature. If you need assistance with providing the EDD with your identity documents, visit AskEDD on the EDD website, select the “Unemployment Insurance” category, the “Payments” sub-category, and then the topic “Frozen EDD Debit Card” to provide contact information and a representative will follow up. Payments should be re-established once your identity has been established.

Are PUA benefits taxable?

PUA benefits are subject to federal income tax and need to be reported on your federal tax return. You will receive a Form 1099-G to file with your federal income taxes. However, they aren’t subject to California income tax. The California FTB has said neither the base unemployment compensation nor the federal supplement known as FPUC are subject to California income tax. The California FTB has not said whether the MEUC supplement will be taxable, but we expect it to be treated similar to FPUC payments and not be taxable.

Has the additional $600 per week temporary emergency increase been extended?

No. The additional $600 per week temporary emergency increase ended on July 25, 2020. 

 

Are there any supplemental unemployment benefits available now?

Yes.  If you are eligible for UI or PUA benefits for any weeks from December 27, 2020 through March 13, 2021, you will also receive additional FPUC benefits of $300 per week under the new CARES Act II.  However, EDD has said they need additional guidance from the federal government before they can begin paying the additional benefit.


Additionally, if you are a “mixed earner” receiving UI benefits for any weeks from December 27, 2020 through March 13, 2021, you may be eligible for $100 per week supplemental MEUC payment.  Mixed earners are those eligible for traditional UI benefits (due to a W-2 job) who also had self-employment income of at least $5,000 in their most recent taxable year.  We will provide more information on how to qualify and apply for MEUC payments when it becomes available.
 

Other Questions

If I live in one state and am self-employed in another state, where should I file for PUA benefits?

You must file with the state where you were working at the time of becoming unemployed, partially unemployed or unable to work because of a COVID-19 related reason.  If you worked in more than one state at this time, you may file an any of those states.

 

What should I do if I’m an independent contractor and I’ve already filed under the prior system (before April 28 when the PUA application became available)?

If you didn’t have any employee wages for the past 18 months (you know you’re self-employed or an independent contractor), you should reapply for PUA by filing a new claim through UI Online on April 28 or after. You do NOT need to cancel your existing UI claim. You do NOT need to call EDD about the prior UI claim you filed. Even if you received either a Notice of Unemployment Insurance Award showing $0 in benefits or a notice of disqualification, you may be eligible for PUA benefits, regardless of these notices. As long as you haven’t appealed any of the notices you received, go ahead and reapply for PUA.  

 

What should I do if I received employee wages for the past 18 months, filed for regular UI, and received an EDD Notice indicating $0 in benefits?  

If you are not an independent contractor or self-employed, then this means that either: (i) the EDD could not verify your identity with its records (you’ll receive by mail instructions on how to verify your identity); (ii) you were misclassified by your employer as an independent contractor (instead of an employee); or (iii) your employer reported your wage information incorrectly to the EDD.  If you believe the EDD’s record of your employment wages isn’t accurate, you may provide the EDD with a brief summary of why you disagree with the notice and information about your wages, and request that the EDD investigate your case.  The EDD will follow up to obtain any details or documentation needed to make a determination.

 

What should I do if I received a written Notice of Determination?

A Notice of Determination is a written disqualification through which a claimant if formally denied benefits. If you believe your disqualification notice was in error, you have the right to appeal within 30 days of the mailing date on the notice.

How do I appeal a written Notice of Determination?

Download the Appeal Form (DE 100M) from the EDD’s website at  https://www.edd.ca.gov/pdf_pub_ctr/de1000m.pdf, fill it out, and mail it to the return address shown on the Notice of Determination. You must submit your appeal in writing within 30 days of the mailing date on the Notice of Determination. 

 

What happens after I file an appeal?

The Office of Appeals will notify you of the time and location of your hearing at least 10 days in advance.  An Administrative Law Judge will conduct the hearing, give you a chance to present your evidence, and issue a written decision.  The written decision should include information about filing a second level appeal if you disagree with the Administrative Law Judge’s decision.

 

I disagree with the Administrative Law Judge’s decision, can I file a second level appeal?

 

Yes, if you disagree with the Administrative Law Judge’s decision, you may file a second level appeal with the  California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board (Appeals Board) within 30 calendar days from the date of the ALJ's decision.

 

What can I do if I disagree with the Appeals Board decision?

You may file a Writ of Mandate to the Superior Court within six months of the mailing date of the Appeals Board’s written decision.

 

How do I contact the EDD for questions?

To get information on how to file a new claim, last payment issued, certification of benefits, the EDD has an automated self-service line, and you can call 1-866-333-4606 (available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week).

For general or technical questions such as how to use your UI Online, registration, password reset, and EDD Customer Account Number (no access to claim or payment information), you can contact the general or tech support line at 1-833-978-2511 (open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (PST), 7 days per week).

For help filing a UI claim or get payment information, you can call claims support at 1-800-300-5616 (open 8.a.m. to 12 p.m. (PT), Monday through Friday, except holidays).

 

What should I do if I’ve been trying to contact the EDD, but I can’t get a live person on the phone?

Despite the EDD’s extended hours, callers are still having a difficult time reaching live representatives for help with their unemployment claims. Please be patient and try calling during different hours of the day and different days.  It has become very difficult to reach a representative by phone due to the high call volumes. Unfortunately, it is beyond our control.

What should I do if I accidentally put the wrong “last-employed” date on my application or the EDD got the wrong date?

You can either submit a request through your UI Online account or call the UI Claims Support line at 1-800-300-5616 8 a.m. to 12 noon (Pacific time), Monday through Friday except state holidays, go to Ask EDD at https://askedd.edd.ca.gov/, select “Unemployment Insurance Benefits,” “Claims Questions,” and “Backdate the Effective Date of my Claim Due to COVID-19,” or take the award notice, write the correct “last employed” date on your Notice of Award and mail it back to the EDD address on the notice.

 

Will the EDD now send me text messages about my unemployment claim?

Yes. You may receive text notifications with updates about your unemployment claim. You may receive texts from the EDD notifying you that, for example, your claim is now processed, your first benefit payment was issues, the EDD is unable to verify your identity and needs information from you, or the EDD has verified your identity. Keep in mind that the EDD test message will not ask you to submit anything or respond via text. The texts are sent from 1-877-324-1224 to the phone number you included on your application for benefits.

 

What if I am an agent and I accidentally listed my broker as my employer?

You should contact the EDD, inform them of your mistake, and ask about how it should be fixed. In addition, if your broker received a letter about you from the EDD, ask your broker to respond and state that your broker isn’t your employer.

Why did I receive a notice from the EDD requesting documents verifying my 2019 income?

The EDD is now requesting income verification documents for calendar year 2019 from PUA benefit recipients receiving more than the $167 minimum weekly benefit amount. PUA recipients who have UI Online accounts are receiving notifications on their UI Online home page asking them to upload income documents. PUA recipients who don’t have UI Online accounts are receiving paper notices in the mail.

 

Why are only some PUA recipients receiving income verification requests, and not others?

It appears to be an audit for PUA benefit recipients who are receiving more than the $167 minimum weekly benefit amount. Members receiving the $167 minimum weekly benefit amount have reported that they haven’t gotten any such income verification requests.

 

Is there a deadline to provide the EDD with documents verifying my 2019 income?

Yes, according to the EDD, you have 21 days from the date of your notice. If you have a UI Online account, your upload deadline will be on your UI Online home page under the Notifications section. We recommend that you upload your documents before your deadline to avoid delays due to possible technical difficulties. If you don’t have a UI Online account and you received a paper notice in the mail, your submission deadline should be on your paper notice. The upload/submission deadline provided by the EDD on each member’s notice (either through email or paper) is usually 21 days from the date of each member’s own notice.

 

What if I don’t submit documents to verify my 2019 income within the deadline?

You must upload the required documents to avoid a decrease in your weekly benefit amount.  If you were paid benefits, you may have to repay the EDD what you were not entitled to receive.

 

What documents should I submit to verify my 2019 income?

You may submit one or more of the following documents: federal tax return (IRS Form 1040, Schedule C or F); state tax return (CA Form 540);W-2; paycheck stubs; payroll history; bank receipts; business records; contracts; invoices and corresponding documents; any other documents to prove your 2019 income. For self-employment, the documents must show your net income (i.e. Schedule C, line 31). Tax documents such as the IRS 1040 and an associated Schedule C are preferred.  IRS Form 1099-MISC is not an acceptable income document. For regular employment, the documents must show your gross income, such as W-2.  Providing check stubs showing your earnings each quarter would also be helpful.

 

How do I submit my income verification documents?

Log in to your UI Online account (if you have one) and go to the Upload Income Documents for PUA section on the home page to provide the required documents. You’ll need to submit your documents through an upload link which opens DocuSign to attach your documents. If you don’t have a UI Online account or if you prefer to mail your documents, then you can mail your documents to:

Employment Development Department
PUA 2019 Income Verification
PO Box 989726
West Sacramento, CA 95798-9726

If you choose to mail your documents, make sure you write your 10-digit EDD Customer Account Number (EDDCAN) clearly at the top of each page. Do not mail your documents if you submit them online because this may delay processing.

 

How do I inform the EDD that I do not have any 2019 income verification documents?

If you have a UI Online account, login and select “No” to the question “Do you have Documents to Upload?” Upon clicking “No”, you will get the following message: “If you don’t submit the required documents, your weekly benefit amount will decrease to as low as $167 going forward.  You’ll be required to repay the EDD difference for each week you were paid.”  If you received a notice in the mail, write “No income documents for 2019” above the signature line before you sign, date, and mail the notice back to the EDD.

 

I received a notice in the mail from the EDD asking me to verify my 2019 income. What should I do?

If you received a notice in the mail, follow the instructions on the notice and submit it along with your income documents.

 

If I’ve already returned to work and am no longer receiving PUA benefits, do I still have to verify my income? 

Yes, if you were paid benefits and you don’t submit the required documents, you may have to repay the EDD what you were not entitled to receive. 

Are there new documentation requirements under CARES Act II?

Yes. The new CARES Act II requires documentation of employment or self-employment for anyone applying for or receiving benefits after December 27, 2020. EDD’s current procedures may satisfy this requirement, or more documentation may be required.  We will update this as guidance becomes available.

 
 
 
 
 

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